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RED SOX NOTEBOOK

This road crew keeps on trucking

Yes, Eric Hinske said, the Red Sox reserves have come up with a handle for themselves.

"We're the I-75s," he said.

Please explain.

"It started in spring training," he said. "We're the I-75s, because we go on all the road trips."

I-75, for the uninitiated, is the major north-south expressway in Florida that runs through Fort Myers, where the Sox train, and is the road upon which the team bus rolls whenever they go out of town for an exhibition game. It is a veteran's prerogative in spring training to be left behind when the team travels in spring, which means the reserves can count on having a window seat on the bus.

"What's the name of the park where they play in Fort Myers?" said shortstop Alex Cora, another card-carrying member of the I-75s. "City of Palms Park? That's our practice field. We don't get to play in games."

Hinske, who for 4 1/2 seasons was an everyday player for Toronto, has seen little action this season. He has 75 plate appearances, appearing in 33 of the Sox' 71 games. He has made 14 starts, but when he homered in the eighth inning of Boston's 11-0 win Wednesday in Atlanta, it was just his 18th plate appearance in the last 23 games. Overall, he is batting just .188 with 2 home runs and 7 RBIs.

He comes into this weekend's series in San Diego against the Padres with the possibility of pinch hitting a time or two, or perhaps entering as a defensive replacement at first base for David Ortiz, but little more.

Yet, he has not made an issue of his playing time, even though he has little chance of making a case that after this season, he will be worth the $5.6 million he is being paid this season, half of which is being paid by the Blue Jays.

"You try to stay positive and not get down on yourself," he said, "though sometimes you know if you take an 0-for, you may not play again for a while."

Out of sorts
Reliever Brendan Donnelly, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right forearm, played catch on Wednesday in Atlanta and plans to do so again tonight in Petco Park.

"Being unable to help when a situation arises is hard," he said. "It's frustrating. When you're on the DL, you almost feel like you're not part of the team. I know it's not going to be forever or anything like that, but time seems to stand still. Everybody who has been in that situation would agree. I'm not used to it. When I've been on the DL before, whether it was with a broken face or whatever, I always knew what was up.

"Now that I'm a little bit older -- I wouldn't say smarter -- I've learned how to listen a little better. There's a process that needs to take place, and I'm trying to understand that. I'm trying real hard to do the right thing and get back as fast as possible because if I don't do the right thing, it's just going to delay it more."

Does he still feel discomfort?

"[Wednesday's] session went as planned," he said.

Old stomping grounds
Although the Sox have not played before in Petco Park, it will not be a new experience for Daisuke Matsuzaka; he pitched the championship game of the World Baseball Classic there in the spring of 2006. Matsuzaka will be facing Greg Maddux, one of his heroes. In 1999, Matsuzaka was treated to a trip to the World Series as a reward for being named Rookie of the Year in Japan's Pacific League and saw Maddux pitch. He has been quoted in the past as saying, "I want to be a pitcher that is a mixture of Nolan Ryan and Greg Maddux."

Gordon Edes can be reached at edes@globe.com.

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